Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Viva la resistance!

This post is about resistance and freedom.
How apropos that it comes at the close of Independence Day weekend ;)

I went swimming for the first time this weekend in nearly 3 years. Crazy to think considering that as a child I basically lived in my pool. To my surprise, I found that I needed some practice in remembering how to do it! I know how to swim, but the finer mechanics eluded me. For instance, as I was practicing holding my breath under water, I found that I was scrunching my face together so that water wouldn't get in my nose, and that this led me to clench my teeth together. Seems that my study and training in lengthening the breath didn't help me in this moment. Even though I was in the pool and swimming, I found myself resisting the experience. My friend at one point said to me, "Relax, we're in the pool. It's supposed to be fun!" And at once, my yoga practice came to mind.

Often enough, I find myself resisting an experience on the mat for whatever reason. I come to class, I'm on my mat, sweating and stretching and working to bring my body-mind into alignment, but somewhere I will resist. This usually shows up in my inversion practice and especially in handstand. I will start telling myself all the things I don't have yet (my triceps aren't spiraling enough... my arms aren't straight enough, etc.) and I will eventually come out of the pose feeling unsuccessful.

When I see this as I teach, I tell my students to focus on their exhales. They say that if you focus on really emptying the breath, the inhale will come. Exhaling allows the physical body to soften, to filter out carbon dioxide and other toxins, and helps to ease the mind. My teacher, Sigrid Matthews, told me once that when we find ourself in patterns of resistance, it is best to keep working with the breath, and to really recognize that we are resisting. So even by simply noting to ourselves, "Ok, right now, I am resisting this," will be enough to start shifting this pattern into something that is more life-enhancing.

When I applied this to myself in the pool, my physical being changed. My facial muscles relaxed, my breath release was slower and more even. Though I wasn't able to stay under as long as I wanted,I was more relaxed and able to laugh at myself as I remembered how to do something I did with ease years ago.

Viva la resistance, readers!
Then empty your breath ;)

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